Gleick Spiked

by | Feb 28, 2012

I have a post up on Spiked about Fakegate.

One of the endlessly recurring themes of the environmental narrative is – in the words of the man at the centre of the ‘Fakegate’ mess, water and climate researcher Peter Gleick – that an ‘anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated’ effort exists ‘to cast doubt on climate science’, and ‘muddy public understanding about climate science and policy’. According to this mythology, right-leaning think tanks are funded by big energy companies that are keen to protect their profits from environmental regulation.

Read on.

It was written through the fug of flu. What I wanted to get at is just how powerful ecological mythology seems to be. It seems to reduce even people with advanced scientific degrees to complete intellectual zombies. The idea that an outfit with a budget of £3 million can compete with the INGOs, governments, and the business interests in the green sector simply makes no sense whatsoever.


  1. Matthew W

    A small point:
    “Gleick claims that he was not the author of the faked document, and that it was emailed to him from an anonymous source.”

    I don’t recall Gleick saying that the document had been emailed to him.

  2. Ben Pile

    Gleick claims:

    I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy.

    Yes, mail is not email. Apologies.

  3. Robin Guenier

    Another small point. You say, “Gleick claims that he was not the author of the faked document.” But does he? Here’s the relevant quotation:

    “I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.”

    We know that the Fake Memo was not one of the HI documents. So, if he did fake it, his statement could be consistent with either (a) his having written the “original anonymous communication” and therefore having no need to alter it or (b) his having binned that communication and written an entirely new document. Either (a) or (b) would be a way of avoiding a charge of lying.

    (PS: good to meet you – if briefly – at the Lindzen talk last week.)

  4. geoffchambers

    Matthew’s right. Gleick was careful to avoid identifying the document he allegedly received as the document which Heartland claims to be false. Since Gleick was identified as the author by Mosher from internal evidence alone (Pacific time zone date, odd highlighting of Gleick alone as a “distinguished scientist” and stylistic peculiarities) before Gleick’s confession, it’s a safe bet that he wrote the false document himself, and his tale of receiving a document anonymously is a lie. Since he believes lying is acceptable to further the cause, it would be perfectly normal – praiseworthy even – to lie in his own defence.

    Great article. You talk about environmentalist “mythology”. The great classical scholar Jane Harrison once summed up the logic of mythology thus: “First comes the ritual dance mask, then the monster to explain the mask, then the hero to kill the monster” – meaning that human activity precedes the story which is supposed to justify and explain it.
    In this case, the ritual dance is the explosion in obsessive data collection made possible by modern technology; the masks are the various iconic graphs signalling temperature rises, thinning ice, etc; the monster is global warming; and the hero – identified as such by Monbiot, Naomi Klein, etc – is the climate scientist, who must transgress and be sacrificed to expiate our sins.
    You couldn’t make it up, and you don’t need to. It’s all in the standard anthropology textbooks.

  5. Matthew W

    I don’t know what the legal ramifications would be for Gelick if he is proven to be the author of the obviously faked document (compared to the rest of the legal charges that should/will be against him), but since it would be too easy to disprove that someone emailed him that document, he’s going with the “other dude did it” defense. Who the fruck mails anything these day anywho??

  6. Lewis Deane

    Nice post, Ben. Your anger and disgust are very clear! There’s is a kind of ‘white heat’ that has been released by this latter farce that, maybe, we have to be careful of. By the by.

    Another point, there have been many in the ‘normal’ media and the blogosphear that have directly called out Gleick as someone who forged the famous ‘Memo’ – but none of them have been called by Gleicks legal people. The evidence is more than convincing to me – but not yet conclusive. However, if it were not true, would one not hear from Gleicks very famous lawyer? At least, a ‘Decease and Desist’?

    By the way, the ‘revolution’ was ‘defeated’ last night and all the children had to go home – from the grounds of St Paul!

  7. Lewis Deane

    What is a curious question, for me, is how quickly the British Establishment, such as the BBC and the Guardian, embraces such farces and how much it tells of the long decline and fall of British power and the desperate wish of such an Establishment (the so called ‘Enquiries’, a case in point, very typical of our ‘beloved’ Establishment – to which Voltaire might say (though not me!) “Écrasez l’infâme!”) to find a new ‘roll’ for itself, where it could ‘punch above its weight’. For, in a sense, wasn’t the IPPC and ‘climate change’, if not a British, then a Commonwealth invention? Such history is revealing – a legacy of the end of Empire!?

  8. Lewis Deane


    Your reference to Jane Harrison is interesting, if somewhat forced (haste on your part?). Perhaps, another way to say it, is how ‘archetypal’, in the Jungian sense this is, or in other words, how ‘Greek’. But the ‘white heat’, therefore, should not be ignored. It has been more than interesting, how certain people have reacted to this absurdity. From foaming to ridiculous ‘philosophers’ and their absurdly superficial nonsense. And it has made all rational people angry – not Gleicks stupidity but the monstrous justifications that are being spouted out there, after. That is why I say we must be careful of this ‘white heat’. When you expose a criminal they become desperate and monstrous. Be careful what you expose!

  9. Ben Pile

    Lewis, I definitely get the sense that this has far more to do with international politics of one form or another than what useful idiots — journalists, scientists and activists, variously — say and do.

    It’s getting the debate moved past the useful idiots that is the problem, and onto the subject of why and how international bureaucracies are being created.

    My argument is that a weakening political establishment attempts to root itself above democratic control, in international bureaucracies – the EU being another epitome of it. Though, that is not to say that they’re not acting ‘in good faith’: they’re as nuts as their idiots.

    The end of empire is an interesting angle. And there’s more than enough neocolonialism knocking around. Most interesting to see that it’s the libertarian right which is most vocal about it; the left pretty much having abandoned its critique of imperialism. I guess bossing other people about for your own interests is — just like making stuff up ‘for the right reasons’/’greater good’ (James Garvey) — all okay, just so long as it’s in the name of Gaia.

  10. Lewis Deane

    It is interesting, isn’t it, Ben, how the ‘right’ has, to a certain extant, taken over a kind of ‘radical’ mantel? Maybe it is the ‘shrinkage’ of power that makes, once more, the ‘bourgeois’ ‘radical’, once more, the real radical, in this ‘new’ ‘West’? For an historian this is endlessly fascinating but for a human being … Well, a bit more important, I suppose?
    As we see the tectonic plaits of history, for this West, tilt elsewhere, I mean, it is fascinating (and appalling!) to watch these greedy idiots grab all and everything and prepare to jump like the rats they are!

  11. geoffchambers

    Lewis Deane:
    I don’t think the Jane Harrison reference is forced. it’s an example (pre-Freud) of the idea that reversing the accepted order of cause and effect can often be enlightening, an idea Ben frequently expresses with respect to politics and science, or catastrophe and evidence. Mythology is seen naively as the precursor of (“real”) religion, when it is better viewed as the explanatory footnote to current religious practices. Environmentalists are saving the world (in their heads) and CAGW is the mythology which explains how and why.
    An example: a few years ago, there were two major themes running in parallel on the Guardian’s environment pages. One was global warming, as announced and interpreted by a huge cast of scientists, economists, bureaucrats, journalists etc. The other was the efforts to bring development to a Ugandan village, conducted by a few idealistic buggers with no idea more complicated than doing good.
    The second idea died. Guardian readers (me included) are not very interested in life in a Ugandan village. No doubt it’s much like life in an English village circa 1900, before mains electricity. We’d much rather read about how to prevent tsunamis by growing your own veg and sneering at the neighbour’s big car.
    One idea wasy mythic. The other was – well – boring.
    I don’t buy Jungian archetypes, which are just a posteriori flimflam, with no expanatory value. Different people come up with similar “archetypical” ideas because there’s something common to our makeup. No collective unconscious needed.

  12. Lewis Deane

    Which is not to cast aspersions on the aforesaid ‘bourgeois radicals’ – far from it, they are not one of the ‘rats’. On the contrary. They are the ‘heroes’ (not “Gleick heroes!”). It’s just historically interesting that we must revert to a John Bright to protect our liberties! Irony of irony. As you might say, what is the use of the ‘left’? After all, they never seem to read anything, not even Marx!

  13. Lewis Deane


    I’m not sure which idea, in the Guardian, was ‘myth’ and which was real. It a pity though, and typical, that helping a Ugandan village was the idea abandoned. It is emblematic and absurd that ‘helping’ people comes second after what…? A nebulous stupidity. (By the way, in the 1900s we did have electricity!)
    Yes, Jung was superficial but, let us say, provocative. I liked the idea that there only n number of people in the world, of which archetype we are mere repeats. Maybe I read to many Russion novels but I often fantasised about meeting my double! But more seriously, formerly, history does repeat itself, in essence, never!

  14. Lewis Deane

    Ben, what is ‘good faith’, here? I don’t believe in it.

  15. Lewis Deane

    Ben, something I wrote on Bishop Hill’s (do you remember the origin of his blog – I do!)

    I think both more naive and insidious than that. I don’t think the UK Establishment every gave up there sense of ‘ruling’ the world. I think ‘climate change’ has been an attempt to continue that. I think the desperation in this whole saga is about ‘power’, but most of all a lack of power and a loss of it. This is the last desperate throw of the ‘Colonial’ gold ring into the game, that we can dominate the monstrously, emerging powers with our Western absurdities. Instead of adjusting to a new (low wage!) world we want to pretend it only exists at our bidding! How pathetic!

  16. geoffchambers

    Lewis deane: “Maybe I read too many Russian novels…”
    I think a lot of us read too much. Pre-internet, we all led our harmless lives in isolation, the village know-all talking to himself in the Public library reading room. Now we’re in touch and plotting to take over the world…
    CAGW is largely the creation of a subset, or perhaps a mutation, of the reading classes, consisting of those who don’t do much reading themselves, but have a lot of respect for those who do. Especially for those whose reading is of a specialist nature, and rather too long and technical for you and me.
    Ben made an interesting comment about James Garvey’s recent Guardian article at
    in which he says:
    “Perhaps the dominant theme in the debate is mediocrity. Mediocre politicians, mediocre journalists, mediocre academics, mediocre scientists…”
    I noticed, browsing through James Garvey’s Royal Institute of Philosophy blogs, that he never actually quotes any philosophers. Despite basing his entire ethical stand on “what the science says”, he never quotes any scientists either. In fact the only person he quoted on climate was Mark Lynas. The only thing I remember about Lynas’s book “6 Degrees” was him saying how thrilled he was to be reading science articles in the Bodleian Library – a little explosion of orgasmic mediocrity before he got on with the serious job of filling 200 pages with the words “the end of the world is nigh, according to my peer-reviewed sources”.
    The mediocre journalists, politicians, and academics on the bandwagon clearly belong to the non-reading, university-educated classes. They get their information from the Guardian, because that’s where they write.
    There’s a precedent for an international craze started by a tiny élite group pretending to be a mass movement – “the Swinging Sixties”. One of the founding fathers of this strange, but relatively harmless, moment in our history wrote an excellent analysis of this period called “the Neophiliacs”. His name was Chrisopher Booker. I wonder what happened to him?

  17. Lewis Deane

    Indeed, Geoff, “Christoper Booker”, indeed. It’s late and I won’t bore you, but also, Christopher Hitchens.
    I sometimes feel that we are in a strange hiatus of history where, strangely, we’re allowed to converse! I look at all these revolutions in the Arab world and think of Wordsworth and think about how he became a tax inspector! How ironic history is! How much it betrays one! With ones ‘hopes’ and ones ‘absurdities’! Nothing is steady, nothing is ‘true’. One merely ‘champions’ what is ‘true’ – historical regressions like being rational. And, you and I, we do not ‘champion’ anything – we merely try to think.

  18. Ben Pile

    Geoff — good point about Garvey’s non-reading. And in fact, reading back over the debate with him at, it is startling just how divorced from the ‘science’ he is, even though he attributes it all to the IPCC. He’s just taken the worst-plausible cases, as you say, in the manner that Lynas has, and presumed them to have emerged ‘from science’. He hasn’t actually checked.

    He then says they create ethical imperatives. He then gets to say that typically ‘unethical’ actions can be ‘ethical’, as long as they serve those imperatives. It screams loudly that the whole point of the exercise is ‘ethics’ for the sake of having some ‘ethics’ — with him at the bridge, of course.

    This lack of substance is reflected in Lynas sitting in the Bodleian, too. It’s all fur coat and no knickers (as is most of Oxford). Big grand old buildings, and a world-class reputation… but what substance? Empties such as Lynas, searching for an ‘ethics’, in books and articles he can leech factoids from? All this apparatus, but no direction. ‘What are our ‘ethics’? I can’t help thinking that they are conscious of their mediocrity and the search for ‘ethics’ is a struggle to cope with it. Same with posturing politicians, scientific academies and their presidents, ‘radicals’, and so on. Nobody wants to leave their mark on the world. It’s all to be left as it was found — sustainably.

  19. Lewis Deane

    Ben, the ‘superficiality’ of Academia is one thing, but of human beings? And they are ‘human beings’. There is no hiding in the skirts, here. ‘Garvey’s none-reading’, as you put it, is surely, a very ‘real’ reading of his what is in his interest. If your looking for honest and intellectual integrity, an ‘intellectual conscience’, from him, then you are looking in the wrong place.
    This ‘lack of substance’, you mention, is a kind of endemic disease. It is historical and, therefore, I suppose, must be endured.
    ‘I can’t help thinking that they are conscious of their mediocrity’ but let us not personalise, or think to much about them. ‘Mediocrity’ is painful and dangerous, especially when your young, and one must be careful with it. For they are bullies. Yes, they are ‘conscious’ and they hate you for it. But that can never be your concern.
    Look at the boats!

  20. Lewis Deane

    (Can’t sleep, as usual) A good question would be, what does it mean to be an ‘idiot’? I’ve always been somewhat chuffed by the fact that, according to the only IQ test I was compelled to take, I scored 96 – ie, subnormal! I’m sure Garvey and his sub-friends could best me – or not so sure, but I’d give them a try (I won the A level maths prize of my school at eleven, for God sake!). No, what we’re talking about is moral stupidity. That elemental human quality of being able to stand by your words (so elemental ancient Chinese just gives it an ideogram – ‘sincerity’!). And looking at the post Geoff referenced and reading some of the comments, it is obvious (how representative we don’t know but from my experience, very) that this feeling for sincerity is ‘white hot’, as I say, and bothered, not, again, merely by Gleick, but by his ‘apologists’, what they, and I, would call apologies for human beings. Ethics.

  21. peter gentle

    Maybe part of the mythology is that the green movement has always seen themselves as the David to Big Energy’s Goliath. Far from seeing that their kind of thinking is now part of the establishment, they persist in seeing themselves as ‘victims’.. And that breeds the conspiracy mindset. Very good article.


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